Documenting Global Best Practices of Monitoring & Evaluation Using Technological Tools
 DDG, DMEO NITI Aayog.
 Intern, DMEO NITI Aayog.
|Title:||Documenting Global Best Practices of Monitoring & Evaluation Using Technological Tools|
|Author(s):||Radha R Ashrit and Ishaan Sharma|
|Keywords:||Monitoring and Evaluation; Documentation; Best practices; Tools|
|Issue Date:||October 8, 2023|
|Publisher:||IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute|
|Abstract:||This study delved into the realm of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) using technological tools, elucidating its significance and exploring innovative approaches. M&E emerged as a systematic process for assessing program efficacy and impact through data scrutiny, while also emphasizing the importance of documenting global best practices. These practices not only provide a roadmap for better decision-making but also foster transparency, accountability, knowledge sharing, and the creation of a robust knowledge base. While technology has revolutionized M&E, it comes with limitations such as accessibility, data security, technical expertise, cultural barriers, and bias. However, innovations like crowdsourcing, real-time reporting, mobile data collection, and outcome harvesting have reshaped the landscape. This study underscores the transformative potential of technological tools in refining M&E practices on a global scale.|
|Appears in Collections:||IPRR Vol. 2 (1) [January-June 2023]|
(January-June 2023) Volume 2, Issue 1 | 8th October 2023
ISSN: 2583-3464 (Online)
This study delved into the realm of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) using technological tools, elucidating its significance and exploring innovative approaches. M&E emerged as a systematic process for assessing program efficacy and impact through data scrutiny, while also emphasizing the importance of documenting global best practices. These practices not only provide a roadmap for better decision-making but also foster transparency, accountability, knowledge sharing, and the creation of a robust knowledge base. While technology has revolutionized M&E, it comes with limitations such as accessibility, data security, technical expertise, cultural barriers, and bias. However, innovations like crowdsourcing, real-time reporting, mobile data collection, and outcome harvesting have reshaped the landscape. This study underscores the transformative potential of technological tools in refining M&E practices on a global scale.
What is Monitoring and Evaluation?
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) constitute a comprehensive and methodical process of gathering, scrutinizing, and employing data to gauge the efficacy, efficiency, and impact of programs or projects. It entails constant and unbroken monitoring of progress towards preconceived objectives and the evaluation of the outcomes and ramifications of interventions.
As per the comprehensive handbook titled “Monitoring and Evaluating for Results” published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the concept of monitoring entails an ongoing process that serves the essential purpose of furnishing the management and key stakeholders involved in an ongoing initiative with timely insights regarding the advancement or potential deficiencies in attaining desired outcomes.
Such interventions may encompass diverse endeavors such as projects, programs, or any form of assistance contributing to a desired outcome (UNDP, 2002). Moreover, as stated in the handbook, evaluation serves as a discerning endeavor aimed at methodically and impartially gauging advancement towards and the attainment of a desired result. It is crucial to note that evaluation is not confined to a singular occasion but rather encompasses a series of assessments varying in their extent and comprehensiveness conducted at various junctures in response to evolving requirements for evaluative understanding and growth during the endeavor to accomplish an outcome.
Importance of Documenting Global Best Practices of M&E
- Establishing a Roadmap – Compiling an extensive record of international exemplars in M&E offers organizations a well-defined path to pursue. Through an examination of effective strategies and methodologies, organizations can modify and apply them to suit their unique requirements, leading to the attainment of their objectives. This comprehensive documentation offers invaluable insights into the appropriate approaches for gauging advancement, pinpointing deficiencies, and assessing the program’s influence. Furthermore, the documented exemplars serve as a yardstick against which organizations can measure their progress, guaranteeing that they stay aligned with the trajectory of triumphant initiatives on their path to accomplishment.
- Promoting Transparency and Accountability – Promoting transparency by documenting the exemplary methods employed in assessing development programs fosters trust between stakeholders and the implementing organization. Through the dissemination of details pertaining to the methodologies and strategies utilized in program evaluation, organizations can equip stakeholders with the necessary knowledge to make well-informed judgments regarding the efficacy of the program.
- Enabling Knowledge Sharing – The process of documenting internationally recognized methodologies for M&E fosters the exchange of knowledge among different organizations. Through the dissemination of their respective experiences, organizations can gain insights from one another, recognize shared challenges, and collaboratively devise effective remedies.
- Better Decision Making – Compiling comprehensive records of international M&E benchmarks facilitates decision-making based on substantiated evidence. Through the collection and scrutiny of data pertaining to program efficiency, institutions can judiciously determine resource distribution, enhance program efficacy, and formulate innovative approaches.
- Building a Knowledge Base – Compiling an extensive record of international exemplars in M&E endeavors contributes to the establishment of a reservoir of wisdom, thereby fostering enhancements in forthcoming development initiatives. By documenting the most effective approaches employed in past programs, a solid foundation is laid for future assessments, thereby promoting uniformity and guaranteeing precise measurement of advancements over time. This meticulous documentation of exemplary techniques enables organizations to construct a repository of expertise, accessible to other entities grappling with comparable obstacles.
Brief Overview of Technological Tools in M&E
The use of technological tools in M&E has revolutionized the way data is collected, analyzed, and reported. With the advent of advanced technologies, organizations are now able to collect and analyze data in real-time, enabling more timely and informed decision-making.
Mobile data collection is a pivotal technological tool employed in M&E processes. It empowers the acquisition of data using portable devices like smartphones and tablets. This approach expedites and streamlines data collection by eliminating the reliance on paper-based forms and manual data entry. Consequently, it curtails errors and ensures the precision of the collected data. With mobile data collection, organizations can create tailored digital forms that cater to their specific M&E requirements. Furthermore, this technique provides a pliable and adaptable approach to data collection. It can be effectively employed in diverse settings, including remote and inaccessible areas, and can be customized to meet the needs of different stakeholders (Bruce and Koler, 2016).
Another technological tool utilized in M&E is geographic information system (GIS) mapping. This instrument facilitates the visualization and examination of data within a spatial context. It enables the identification of patterns and trends that may remain concealed when using traditional data analysis methods. GIS mapping serves as a potent means of displaying various types of data, such as program indicators, survey responses, and population statistics, on a map. Consequently, users can discern the geographical distribution of the data, thus enhancing their comprehension.
Furthermore, the integration of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies is increasingly prevalent in M&E processes, particularly for automating data analysis and prediction. These advanced technologies empower organizations to swiftly and accurately analyze vast volumes of data, recognize patterns, and make projections regarding program outcomes. Additionally, AI can effectively analyze unstructured data, including text, images, and video, which may pose challenges when analyzed manually. Real-time identification of emerging issues or trends can be achieved with the aid of AI, providing organizations with a valuable advantage.
Moreover, web-based platforms and dashboards are employed in M&E to grant stakeholders immediate access to real-time data and information. These platforms facilitate the swift and effortless sharing of data, allowing stakeholders to monitor progress, identify challenges, and make well-informed decisions promptly.
While not yet a prevailing phenomenon within the field of M&E, the utilization of ‘big data’ harbors immense potential. ‘Big data’ encompasses expansive datasets formed by individuals through platforms such as social media or even through the digital imprints we leave behind in our daily lives. These technological advancements are presently integrated into all aspects of evaluation practice, starting from the design phase, where technology enables the implementation of more inclusive and collaborative planning and design methodologies. Furthermore, during the data collection stage, these technologies facilitate a broader spectrum of participant involvement and the acquisition of ‘real-time’ data. Ultimately, technology assumes a pivotal role in the reporting and dissemination of outcomes, allowing for more frequent reporting and the widespread dissemination of findings through channels like social media and SMS (Raftree and Bamberger, 2014)
Limitations of Technology in M&E
- Accessibility – Technological M&E tools may exclude certain groups of people who do not have access to technology, such as those living in remote or rural areas or those who cannot afford to purchase or access technological tools. It may also exclude individuals with disabilities who face accessibility barriers when using technology. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the documentation of best practices is available in various formats and accessible to all stakeholders.
- Data Security and Privacy – M&E using technological tools raises concerns about data security and privacy. The use of technological tools can increase the risk of data breaches, cyber-attacks, and unauthorized access to confidential information. Data breaches can lead to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and loss of trust in the M&E system. Hackers and other malicious actors may exploit vulnerabilities in technological tools and systems. Additionally, data protection laws and regulations must be adhered to when collecting, storing, and sharing data.
- Technical Expertise – Utilizing technological tools for M&E necessitates a profound understanding of technical proficiency. The presence of proficient personnel possessing the requisite technical acumen is crucial to the efficient utilization and upkeep of these tools. Furthermore, the swift trajectory of technological progress demands consistent enhancement of technical aptitude and awareness, enabling individuals and organizations to stay abreast of cutting-edge advancements in the domain.
- Cultural and Linguistic Barriers – M&E instruments have the potential to create hurdles influenced by cultural and linguistic dissimilarities, especially in less developed nations. Utilizing technological tools may necessitate a command of a particular language or cultural comprehension, resulting in the marginalization of specific communities. Additionally, variations in culture can influence the comprehension and execution of optimal methodologies, giving rise to misconceptions, misjudgments, and inadequate implementation of best practices.
- Bias and Interpretation – M&E also brings up apprehensions regarding partiality and elucidation. Technological advancements can furnish an abundance of information, but the elucidation of this data may be subjective and swayed by personal predispositions. Moreover, the comprehension of the data can be subjective and impacted by the predispositions of those performing the analysis. This can culminate in misapprehension of the data and engender erroneous deductions and suggestions.
Bruce, K. and Koler, A. 2016. Applying Emergent Technologies to Complex Program Evaluation from the INGO Perspective in Bamberger, M., Vaessen, J., and Raimondo, E. (Eds.) (2016) Dealing with Complexity in Development Evaluation. Los Angeles. Sage Publications, Inc.
Emerging Technology Trends in M&E. American University. Available at: https://programs.online.american.edu/msme/masters-in-measurement-and-evaluation/resources/emerging-technology-trends-in-monitoring-and-evaluation
Raftree, L. and Bamberger, M. (2014) Emerging Opportunities: Monitoring and Evaluation in a Tech-enabled World. The Rockefeller Foundation.
United Nations Development Programme. Evaluation Office. 2002. Handbook on monitoring and evaluating for results. Evaluation Office.